Government wiretapping of U.S. citizens has become “fast, loose, and completely unfettered” according to whistleblower and security specialist Babak Pasdar who discovered a mysterious ‘backdoor’ circuit at a major U.S. mobile phone carrier. He discovered the circuit while overhauling the telecom’s security system, and raised flags when the company refused to install security mechanisms that would restrict access to the data. According to Pasdar, the circuit he discovered, labeled the “Quantico Circuit,” acts as an unfiltered and unlogged tap into any of the wireless carrier’s information streams, including location, text messaging, call destination and more.
Pasdar and his attorney Tom Devine filed an affidavit with all 435 members of the House of Representatives — credited with turning the tide against telecom immunity in a March 12th vote — describing the blanket wiretap, which tracks any and all information traveling over the carrier’s system.
“The House is demanding first to know ‘Immunity for what?’” said Devine of the Government Accountability Project. “Mr. Pasdar’s disclosure describes several gross violations of law, where the legal boundaries were left in the dust. The Quantico Circuit provides unrestricted access to anything — it turns a legal molehill into a lawless mountain.”
No one knows what organization is at the other end of the tap, although the name “Quantico Circuit” seems to be a reference to Quantico, Virginia, the location of the FBI’s intelligence division. “I don’t know what it was doing. The Quantico circuit was a high speed circuit that was a tap, that had access to all systems” Pasdar said.
According to Wired, Pasdar’s description of what he found is similar to a tap at Verizon Wireless that fed into a government wiretapping program. Devine described what he thinks is at stake with this disclosure: “There is no mechanism to segregate responsible exercises of surveillance from the Big Brother scenario” he said. “The system was structured to put the government on an honor system — to put the Bush Administration on the honor system.”
The scope of information gathered suggests a new level of privacy problems. “What really takes this one step further is that the carriers begin to build a behavioral model based around you as an individual” based on the time, location and destination of your calls, Pasdar said.
The harrowing details of Pasdar’s disclosure — warrantless, undocumented, unfettered wiretapping — only adds fuel to the fire of mistrust and disillusionment surrounding the Bush administration’s execution of the War on Terrorism.
“It’s obvious they were being invasive by virtue of the fact that they’re looking for immunity” for the telecom companies, said Pasdar.